My Favorite Pie that Wasn’t!
James R. Aist
When Daddy became an ordained Methodist minister in Arkansas in the mid-1950s, and I was about ten years old, our family became increasingly familiar with the tradition of churches having pot-luck dinners on the grounds after the morning worship service. This transition delighted me no end, because I had already developed a lust for food, especially of the sweet varieties. There was a plethora of different foods to choose from while filling your plate and no limit to the number of times you could return to the food tables for more! Consequently, I became most interested in going to church when I knew there would be a pot-luck dinner afterward. (Hey, cut me some slack; I was only ten years old!)
Speaking of desserts, Mama did a lot of cooking for us, and she was quite good at it. My favorite of all of her culinary creations was her lemon meringue pie; it had just the right combination of sweet and tangy with a gentle taste of lemon, and it always seemed to disappear from the family dinner table far too quickly to suit my taste, so to speak. So, I always looked forward to visiting the dessert tables at the pot-luck dinners to search out and sample the lemon meringue pies on display there.
On one such occasion, I reconnoitered the dessert tables ahead of time, and to my great satisfaction and anticipation there were a half-dozen beautiful and inviting lemon meringue pies just waiting for me to chose one to begin with. The “blessing” was asked, and I hurriedly filled my first plate with fried chicken, fried okra, tater salad and “poke salad.” After dutifully cleaning this plate, I moved on to what I considered the main course: desserts. Eagerly I rushed to the lemon meringue pies, looked them all over carefully, and chose the one most closely resembling the ones my Mama usually made. I was salivating as I drew aside to begin my conquest.
But, instead of the blissful, sweet and lemony satisfaction I was anticipating upon my first mouthful, I was met with a strongly sour, rather sulfurous sensation that nearly gagged me! “What kind of lemon meringue pie is this?”, I thought to myself. “Is it even lemon meringue? What am I going to do now? I don’t want to make a scene by spitting it out in plain sight, but there’s no way I can swallow this bite, much less eat the rest of the piece!” I looked around, desperately searching for a tree I could discreetly get behind and clear my mouth without being noticed. Having found one, I then needed to find a way to ditch the remains of that vile pretender without incident. Thank God there was a trash can handy, off to one side! I quickly made use of it and proceeded to rinse out my mouth with sweet tea, again and again.
The shock of that horrible experience was so severe that I was not sure, at first, if I was up to trying a different piece of pie. But my hankering for lemon meringue pie soon brought me to my senses, and I was soon rewarded richly for my bravery (with a different pie, of course!). And what was the lesson learned? Things are not always as they seem!
You may be wondering what kind of pie looked to me like lemon meringue and made me gag. I don’t know, but my best guess is that it was either a pie crust filled with deviled egg filling and topped with meringue, or some version of vinegar pie topped with meringue. Got any ideas?
(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)